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What Is a Fuel Dispenser?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A fuel dispenser is a piece of equipment that pumps fuel for distribution into vehicle tanks as well as portable fuel containers. These devices may also be known as petrol or gas pumps, depending on regional dialects, and can be found at fuel stations open to the public as well as private and fleet refueling stations. Numerous manufacturers produce them along with accessories and replacement parts.

The fuel dispenser contains an upright pump with measuring equipment to record the amount of fuel dispensed, along with a nozzle attached to a flexible hose to allow the operator to insert the nozzle into the tank. Environmental regulations in some regions require the use of a vapor capture nozzle to limit the release of fumes during fueling. The hoses may be color-coded to alert operators to the nature of the fuel they dispense, to avoid confusions like pumping diesel into a gas-driven car.

Stations can offer a number of types of fuels from fuel dispensers mounted on an island to allow drivers to pull up to the dispenser they need. Gasoline and diesel are common, but fuel dispensers can also handle propane, kerosene, ethanol, and many other fuels. Underground tanks are typically used for storage to maximize safety, and the station may use bollards and other devices to limit collisions with the dispensers on the fueling island.

Fuel dispensers may carry signage, required by law, to inform people about common safety issues. Fuels can be toxic, and the device may need to warn people about the dangers of inhaling fumes or consuming fuel. In addition, the device may contain accessibility features such as a call button for an attendant for people who cannot operate the fuel dispenser on their own. A control module is often located on the front of the fuel dispenser to allow people to select a method of payment and choose which fuel they want to pump.

In many regions, regulatory agencies must periodically inspect fuel dispensers for safety issues and to confirm that they correctly measure fuel. The devices may need to bear stamps or seals with information about the date of last inspection. Members of the public can report a station to an agency that handles weights and measures if they believe they have been shorted on a transaction. An agent can check the equipment to determine whether the claim is valid, and may issue a fine to the station if it is deliberately adjusting a fuel dispenser to deliver less fuel than stated on the readout.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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